COVID-19 funds rebooted my business- Elina Kangungu

Emergency Cash Transfers are helping households during the COVID-19 pandemic

Precious Nkandu
Market trader in mask at stand with tomatoes for sale
UNICEF/Zambia/2021/Mulikita
12 July 2021

It’s a sunny day in Zambia’s Solwezi District, and we are on our way to meet one of the beneficiaries under the COVID-19 Emergency Cash Transfer (ECT) programme.

In the distance, an elderly lady is busy with customers at her stand. She notices us as we approach.

Even though she is wearing a face mask, it’s apparent from her eyes that she’s smiling as she looks at us. She politely asks if we can follow her to her home because “the customers will not stop coming.”

“My son will take care of the stand,” she says. “My home is a stone’s throw away; please come with me.”

As we follow her, we walk through a maize field into an open space where we find a brick house and then a small mud house at the far end of the yard. She points to the mud house and tells us this is hers. Six children fetch stools for us to sit. She spreads a mat and warmly invites the children to sit with her.

“Mwayiyayi mwane!” (Kaonde greeting translated as “welcome!” in English).

“My name is Elina Kangungu and I am 54 years old. The six kids you see are my grandchildren left by my late children. Apart from the six, I look after two other grandchildren who have gone to school.”

Elina narrates that she divorced a long time ago when her children were still very young. She has no formal education and unfortunately four of her children passed on due to illness and only one has survived.

Woman and her grandchildren outside a home in Zambia
UNICEF/Zambia/2021/Mulikita
Elina with six of her grandchildren that she takes care of.

Warmth returns to Elina’s eyes as she remembers how she attended a community sensitization meeting organized by the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services and learned about the COVID-19 emergency cash transfers. She further narrates how they were sensitized on COVID-19 prevention guidelines and the best ways to use the money.

“We were encouraged to buy basic household items such as soap, nutritious food and face masks. I was excited to hear we can also invest the money in business, gardening or livestock,” she adds.

“Since COVID-19, my business has not been good. All suppliers of the goods I sell increased the prices and it was difficult for me to catch up. When I heard I was going to get a lumpsum of K2,400 [through the ECT programme], I thought it was not true until the receipt of my first instalment of K1,200.”

When she received the funds, Elina immediately went to buy food for her household members and bought school items for her grandchildren. She later invested the rest of the funds in her small business.

“Since COVID-19, I was so concerned about my household,” she says. “My business capital was almost exhausted as I had to buy extra soap when I learned washing your hands regularly keeps the virus away. Having all the kids at home also meant we consumed more food, so I spent most of my business money on food.”

The COVID-19 social economic impacts have been felt worldwide. The ECT programme was launched to address these challenges and help families avoid negative coping mechanisms such as removing children from school, selling property or reducing on the number of meals.

“I am growing old and my health has been failing me. I have a knee problem and it has been getting worse day by day and that is why I keep investing in my business and involving my son as much as possible so that he is able to take care of the children. I also invest in my grandchildren’s school because I believe one of them will be educated and take care of the others.”

Elina is one of the beneficiaries who qualified under the programme by virtue of being registered in the long-term Social Cash Transfer (SCT) programme. The ECT programme follows the rationale that beneficiaries under the SCT are already an identified vulnerable group whose needs have now increased due to the pandemic.

Like other beneficiaries in her area, Elina received the last instalment of K1,200 in May 2021.

Twasanta bingi!” (Kaonde for “many thanks!”) for the support, it has helped old people like me take care of their families” says Elina as she bids us goodbye.

To respond to socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services with technical support from UN agencies (UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, WFP) has been implementing the COVID-19 Emergency Cash Transfer  programme to support over 200,000 households in 25 districts in Zambia.

The COVID-19 ECT is financially supported by the European Union and the governments of Germany (through the KFW development bank), Ireland, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.